Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Wedgewood Rock

Around and around the Wedgewood Rock we go . . .

A few days ago we took another leaf out of Janice Krenmayr's book "Footloose in Seattle," published in 1966 by the Seattle Times containing a compilation of columns she wrote about walks to take and things to see in the city, and went to visit the Wedgewood Rock a glacial erratic.  This huge rock is 80 feet (24 meters) around and 19 feet (5.8 meters) high with an estimated weight of 700 metric tons.  It was moved 55 miles from Mount Erie to the present location by the Vashon Glacier 14,000 years ago.  Prior to the European settlement of the region in the mid 1800s, Native Americans used it as a landmark in what was then a dense forest.  Since the early days it has been known variously as Lone Rock, Big Rock, and today Wedgewood Rock.  In 1881 William Weedin's 160-acre farm was its home and the site of at least one 4th of July picnic that was mentioned in the Seattle Daily Intelligencer newspaper.  Weedin's property passed to Mary Miller, the widow of William Miller a ally of the Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens, in 1888.  

In the early 1900s when the rock was known as Big Rock the Miller family gave permission for members of the Seattle Mountaineers Club to practice rock climbing there.  Students of Edmond S. Meany, president of the Mountaineers and a professor at the University of Washington, were brought to the rock to learn about glacial movement and land forms.  Both Wolf Bauer, a German-born climber and scout leader, and Lloyd Anderson founder of REI brought Boy Scouts to the rock to teach them about rock climbing.  Two prominent climbers, Fred Beckey and Jim Whittaker, started their training at Big Rock.  Whittaker later went on to become the first American to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

The Miller family was able to keep the land around the rock undeveloped until the 1940s when the land was sold to a developer, Albert Balch, who promised to preserve the area around the rock as a park but then failed to keep the promise.  In 1946 a group of citizens petitioned the City Council in an effort to preserve the area as a park against Balch's wishes, but failed.  Today the rock sits a little apart from the neighboring houses not in a park but in a residential area.  The space, kept clear by local residents, is not really large enough to be called a park but does still have a few trees and some brush. The rock itself is mossy and at times is said to have licorice ferns growing on it.

A popular destination for picnickers, university students, climbers and eventually hippies the Seattle City Council, in reaction to perceived drug use, eventually passed an ordinance in 1970 making it a crime to climb the rock with a $100 fine.  There was a small amount a graffiti on part of the rock when we visited but gardeners were busy cutting the grass and keeping the space neat and clean so I imagine the graffiti gets removed from time to time as well.  The rock is so huge it hard to imagine the depth of the ice and the amount of force the glacier must have had to move that boulder so many miles to its final resting place on 28th Avenue NE near NE 72nd Street. 

For more information, see:
"Footloose in Seattle," by Janice Krenmayr

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